As former President Donald Trump prepares to make his first appearance in front of a group of major GOP donors since his departure, some Republican officials and fundraisers fear his own political group is cannibalizing a significant portion of the GOP’s financial base. left before becoming critical. mid-term electoral cycle.
Over the course of two campaigns, Trump has built up a loyal army of small dollar donors, whom the former president now encourages to contribute to the political action committee he formed shortly after his 2020 election defeat, when he ‘he is seeking to recover as leader of the Republican Party and has possibly prepared for another White House run.
While Republicans are happy that Trump has agreed to speak at the Republican National Committee’s spring donor retreat this weekend – partly at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla. – some fear that the former president does not end up fundraising for the party. the efforts do more harm than good as they attempt to take control of the US House and Senate in the next election.
“I readily admit that the former president will continue to have a strong fundraising base for himself,” said Bill Palatucci, a member of the RNC from New Jersey. “It remains to be seen whether he is ready to share it or not.”
It is not unusual for a politician to create a PAC to raise money and support like-minded candidates. But as a former president with a dedicated following, Trump is poised to play a much bigger role.
Trump’s group, Save America PAC, currently has more than $ 85 million, according to a source close to its fundraiser. At least $ 30.4 million of that amount was the result of a money transfer Trump made from one of his 2020 campaign committees late last year. For comparison, the RNC entered 2021 with $ 80.5 million in its main account. The source also said that Trump is still in the process of setting up a super PAC, which, unlike traditional PACs, can raise unlimited sums.
Longtime Republican donors view Trump’s new political operation with skepticism, fearing it will be used to promote his own brand rather than the party’s broader interests as an election cycle nears where Democrats defend small majorities in Congress.
Frank VanderSloot, CEO of Idaho-based health products company Melaleuca, said he supports some of the former president’s policies, but not his tactics.
“The version of America I believe in is against bullying. And our country was run by a bully and I think that hurt a lot, ”said VanderSloot, a major Republican donor. “He is not the kind of leader that each of us should follow.”
When asked if he thought Trump’s group would hamper the fundraising efforts of other Republican organizations, VanderSloot replied, “Obviously. I think anyone should assume that, yes.
Stanley Hubbard, CEO of Minnesota-based Hubbard Broadcasting and a major GOP donor, said his primary goal would be to elect more Republicans to Congress in 2022, although he has yet to decide which groups to support.
“It will probably be good for his ego,” Hubbard said of the Trump group. “I would have to hear who it is for, who manages it, what other Republicans think about it.”
Two of Trump’s joint fundraising committees – which raised funds for his own campaign, the RNC and the States Parties – have been a major source of cash for the RNC over the past five years. Since Trump became the GOP’s presumptive candidate for president in May 2016, these two committees have transferred more than $ 300 million to the RNC, which is roughly one in five dollars raised by the RNC during that time. This includes a transfer of $ 6.8 million to the RNC this year.
But Trump’s post-presidential relationship with major GOP groups otherwise got off to a controversial start. Last month, his lawyers sent cease and desist letters to the RNC, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee in an attempt to prevent them from using his image in fundraising. The three committees scanned the letters.
Trump also issued a statement urging his supporters to give money directly to his organization rather than to “RINOs,” or Republicans in name only, although he clarified shortly after, saying, “I fully support the Republican Party and important GOP committees. ”
The top three Republican committees have all included Trump in online ads this week, according to Facebook’s ad library, a sign of the former president’s continued appeal to small donors.
“The RNC and President Trump are focused on the same goal: to regain our majorities in Congress in 2022,” RNC spokesman Tommy Pigott wrote in an email. “There is a lot more that unites our party than divides it, and together we will work to denounce the bad policies of the Democrats and elect the Republicans by ballot.”
Even though Trump and the GOP groups have corrected their differences for now, there are battles looming on the road. Trump has vowed revenge on Republicans who voted against him in the impeachment process that was sparked by the Jan.6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Trump has already endorsed one of his former aides, Max Miller, who is challenging Ohio Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, one of 10 House Republicans who voted for impeachment. If Trump continues to enter the GOP primaries, it would put him further at odds with Republican leaders in Congress, who have traditionally supported incumbents in their re-election battles.
Morton Blackwell, a longtime RNC member from Virginia, said he understood why some Republicans were concerned about the competition between the former president and other party members for funds. But he argued that the Trump and GOP groups would see that there is more to everyone’s benefit from cooperating, even if their interests don’t always directly align.
“Anyone with common sense would see that a working relationship would benefit both, and an adversarial relationship would hurt both,” Blackwell said.
Ben Wieder contributed reporting.